By Shaun Brown
Anthony Crolla may be an overwhelming favourite to make a second successful defence of his British lightweight title against Derry Mathews but the popular 25-year-old is taking nothing for granted.
“I dare not look past this one because there are some big fights out there for me,” he told BoxingScene.com. “And if I don’t win on Saturday, these fights that I believe I’m ready for and can win, will disappear.”
A proposed fight with WBO champion Ricky Burns fell through earlier in the year and a victory over Mathews on “Judgement Night” at the Oldham Sports Centre will likely see the Mancunian go on to even bigger domestic clashes against the likes of European champion Gavin Rees or the other household divisional names: Kevin Mitchell, John Murray and Ricky Burns.
Crolla never really got out of the low gears when he put friendship to one side for a night when comfortably beating Willie Limond on points last time out.
On paper, the pedigree of Mathews suggests a tough test but the champion definitely doesn’t think it’s his toughest assignment to date. However, he’s paying no attention to his betting odds of 1/5 – the equivalent of a sure fire thing.
He said: “I know I’m a heavy favourite with the bookmakers but I don’t look into that. If I do what I know I can do I’m confident I can pull away and get a win.”
The one they call “Million Dollar” is also hoping to put what he describes as the “perfect (training) camp” into practice during the fight.
“I’m super excited to be getting in there. I’ve been working away at the gym, been trying new things, I’ve had great sparring and I’ll be hoping to show the benefits from all of that on Saturday night.”
And what of the challenger’s recent talk of wanting a war with the champion and taking him into the unknown?
“I think he’s playing some mind games,” said Crolla. “I’m expecting Derry to fight the way he normally does despite all this talk. If he does come for a war he won’t have to look far to get one,” warned Crolla.
As for the challenger to Crolla’s crown, Liverpudlian Mathews is eager to test the metal of the champion and find out what he’s really made of.
“He’s never been tested,” said Mathews when speaking to Boxingscene.com. “I will put him in deep water and I will take him where he’s never been before.”
Surprisingly this will be the first time that the 28-year-old has challenged for a Lonsdale belt. And just as Crolla has a lot of big domestic fights to miss out on should he lose, Mathews admits that his career is on the line in this fight. He’s been written off before, thanks to a man called Choi, but soon gained redemption, however this really is closing time for the Scouser in boxing’s ever busy last chance saloon.
“If I win I’m back in the mix but if I lose my boxing career is over. I haven’t looked past Crolla or anything, I’m focused on doing a job on him on Saturday night,” said Mathews.
Like Crolla, Mathews was close to a shot at Ricky Burns had he overcame Emiliano Marsili for the vacant IBO lightweight title back in January. Big things were expected on the night, little was known about the Italian but the upset arrived rather comprehensively via a seventh-round stoppage. The crowd at Liverpool’s Olympia were stunned to silence as the bloodied and beaten local favourite seemed to have swung his last punch in anger.
That was not to be the case. Mathews left a rather successful period with former trainer Oliver Harrison to reunite with former trainer Danny Vaughan and the former WBU champion and European title challenger is hoping the move pays off dividends.
“I’ve watched the tape back of the Marsili fight and we’ve adjusted a few things,” said Mathews. “I’ve had better sparring and in my eyes Marsili is better than Crolla anyway. In my eyes Crolla is just a super featherweight.
“The public keep asking me has he ever been properly hit. He’s had it easy so far the way I had it after twenty fights. He’s never had to knuckle down in a fight and get back up like the way I did against John Simpson (in 2007.) As soon as that bell goes he’s going to be in for a long, hard fight,” predicted Mathews.